SC: City of Columbia, Lake Katherine HOA to share burden of flood control

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


Columbia, South Carolina city officials and Lake Katherine homeowners association (HOA) have decided to work together to prevent flooding in the future.

City officials, Lake Katherine residents seek better flood control in new deal
Wednesday, June 22nd 2016, 7:35 pm EDT
Thursday, June 23rd 2016, 6:17 am EDT

Columbia City Council approved an agreement with the Lake Katherine Homeowners Association. The pact calls for the HOA to help the City get easements and rights-of-way for a sanitary sewer project in the area and temporarily lower the water level in the lake, so that work on the project
can go on. For its part, the City will provide up to $390,000 to dredge the lake of what could be 30,000-cubic yards of sediment that has flowed into the lake from upstream.


Looking back at the history of Lake Katherine, the community was hit hard by flooding from upstream lakes, when dozens of dams were breached in record-setting October 2015 rains. The homes surrounding the lake were constructed starting in the 1940s. The community’s homes include modest mid-century ranches starting at $100,000 as well as stately homes valued up to $900,000.

Of the many homes that were destroyed, they must be either elevated on stilts or demolished. Several  have chosen to rebuild. It’s worth nothing that Lake Katherine itself – and its dam – remain intact.


LAKE KATHERINE: Stilts, starting over part of long flood recovery

The Westons’ nearly 40-year-old house was raised about two months ago, and Clara Weston is getting used to the new elevated views from her front door and her back deck, which overlooks the lake and a few remnants of flood debris. Lake Katherine is one of the few lakes that withstood the onslaught of water in October, its dam intact and its waters remaining.

“It almost looks like nothing ever happened if you look across the lake, so peaceful and beautiful,” she said.

Read more here:

In this case, Lake Katherine owners are fortunate that the City of Columbia needs to acquire easements from property owners. That helps homeowners avoid a $390,000 expense for dredging their lake.


Upstream, the news is not so good

But upstream homeowners associations are not getting any help at the City, State, or Federal level. FEMA and officials from the state of South Carolina insist they cannot fund repair or replacement of dams and lakes in private communities. Homeowners are on their own, and many of them cannot afford to rebuild their dams, even though, in some cases, access roads were also destroyed  when the dams were breached.

I wrote about this problem several months ago:

SC DOT: private owners, HOAs must fix dams before we can repair roads

More recently local news outlets are reporting that, as a result of the expense involved in rebuilding dams, some HOA communities no longer have their lakes. Even if they were to spend millions to rebuild, ongoing liability is another major concern for many homeowners. The cost to insure against losses and potential for lawsuits in the event of future dam failure is simply too great.

Some Richland County, S.C., Dams May Not Be Rebuilt

Choosing not to rebuild dams is a significant development in the ongoing story of South Carolina’s worst flooding in decades. More than 1.5 feet of rain fell on parts of the Columbia area as a powerful storm camped for days over the state in early October.

Since the storm, many people have been asking how long it would take to rebuild the 48 state-regulated dams that broke across South Carolina .

Numerous property-owner groups, which own the dams, want to build back so they can restore lakes that provide amenities to their neighborhoods. A lake can increase the value of property by 15 percent to 50 percent, some real estate appraisers say.

So far, state regulators have not received many applications to reconstruct dams as property-owner groups seek to raise money and develop building plans. But several experts said it’s easy to understand why some property owner groups would not rebuild.

Aside from the expense of constructing a new dam, owning one carries substantial liability if the structure ever broke in the future, said Terry Richardson , a well-known S.C. trial lawyer with four decades of experience.

Read more here:


It’s ashame that Cities and Counties in South Carolina had not been working together with private HOA communities on flood control and safety issues prior to those fateful rains last October. Perhaps much of the devastation might have been prevented.


1 thought on “SC: City of Columbia, Lake Katherine HOA to share burden of flood control

  1. Sad, but the issue is not unique to just South Carolina, this is a huge problem for all or any HOA’s across America. No privately owned community is ineligible for any state, federal funding for any type of natural disaster. Most homeowners that live in these HOA must keep that in mind along with dues your HOA have enough money in their reserve account to cover such disasters that would affect any home or community that is within an HOA, to bring back what was once there. Owners should be very aware of this fact along with any new home buyers. Also keep in mind, your homeowner’s insurance may be costly due to these facts. Would flood insurance help? Maybe only the home, but has that natural disaster affected your area in such a manner that no matter what you try to do the cost is too high to even recover the dollar value you once enjoyed, then at that point the values that are supposed to be protected as said by the HOA industry is a lie.

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